Monday, 30 August 2010
Perhaps not too surprisingly I think it's wonderful and I'd really like to describe it to you. However, rather than do that I'm going to reprint Julia's own description as I love the honesty and feeling of the following passage and I don't think I can top it:
"Now this is nothing for the Greatest Hits Collection. No excellent piece of craftsmanship, no mentionable artistic value. Just stuff that happened, songs that happened while I was planning on something else, like a comma in the short story that is my life. That's how it rolls, you're designing your career, planning out your steps, willing to create something big and meaningful, and in the meantime there are all those little things going on... friends become strangers, strangers turn into friends, maybe one of them reminds you that life's not so bad or meanwhile you've found comfort in nihilism, and then there's this little ukulele that you've owned for years but rarely ever played... yet suddenly it's overflowing with music.
No experiments this time. No exploration of unknown terrain. No concepts, nothing big.
Sometimes I feel so sick of sounding lovely all the time, of always sounding the same, but then again I can't help it. So, fuck creativity! Fuck belief in progress! Maybe I should be elsewhere already. We always feel urged to move forward, do better shit than yesterday, more accomplished, more brilliant, more fancy, and maybe it's almost considered stagnation in personal development if someone just wants to lean back and play some boring ukulele folk songs to comfort himself. Sure I want to be more brilliant and fancy and better than ever, too, but for now maybe there is no need to reinvent the wheel as long as I'm happy playing my rediscovered ukulele for a while. All the flamboyant shit can wait until tomorrow.
So once more I'm not taking a creative leap forward but rather just sitting down on the very spot I happen to stand right now. But maybe someone wants to sit besides me and listen? "
Phew! Quite a statement of intent and a position perhaps best summed up by another rather more famous German; "Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht Anders tun. Gott hilfe mir. Amen." (Just joking, Julia. You're nothing like him, I don't even think he played the ukulele!)
Personally, I love Trivialities. I think it's a mature return to the magical sounds of Hypersomnia and Hydrophobia. I also love it that, in the passage above, Julia displays such naked passion in defending an art-form (bedroom folk) that's often portrayed as safe and wimpy. The attention-grabbing, toddler tantrum antics of some musical genres has unfortunately meant that music that is gentle and thoughtful is sometimes mistakenly labelled as bland and insipid. Nothing could be further from the truth, this is music with genuine feeling and sentiment. It exists because of the artistic urge. What more are you looking for?
For musos amongst you, Julia has rather helpfully provided an inventory of the instruments used on this recording:
"A soprano ukulele, a bowed guitar, a bluegrass banjo, a mandolin banjo, glockenspiel, one concertina, another concertina, a wooden flute, borrowed drums and a cardboard box, casio mini-keyboard, shaker & tambourine."
I hope that clears that up. Enjoy!
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Sunday, 22 August 2010
It all began in the late October of 1989.....SHE had gone, and this time for good, the sting of anguish still hung on me like a fresh tattoo. It was a Tuesday night, the first Tuesday since early April that we hadn't been together. I had a bit of a flu coming on so decided just to stay in with a bottle of Jack Daniels and the four Scott Walker albums I had recently acquired. They had been a bit of a bargain...through Record Collector magazine I had managed to pick up Scott Walker's first four solo albums for £40. This was quite something as I had seen both 'Scott 3' and 'Scott 4' for sale in RC for over £60 EACH.
The rest of my family had gone away on holiday that afternoon so I was alone in the house. I know what you're thinking....empty house, broken heart, melancholic music, Jack Daniels, flu remedy capsules....an accident waiting to happen, right? Wrong....somehow I felt both uplifted and soothed as I listened to the four albums in chronological order. There were certain songs that I felt did the job better than others, and as I perused the sleeve notes found that the songs I connected most with were those written by a certain J Brel(as the label had it). The three song Brel finale of 'Scott 3' especially; 'Funeral Tango', 'Sons Of...' and 'If You Go Away' in particular was simply miraculous. Scott's interpretation of 'If You Go Away' in particular sounded, at that moment, like the greatest piece of words and music combined in all musical history. I played it over and over again. Better than any Beecham's Powders.
I thanked Scott and Jacques for their combined efforts in getting me through the longest night of the soul and made a point to find out more about Brel and check out his own work.
What you have to remember is that back in 1989/90 there were no huge CD reissue campaigns on the go, in fact there weren't really an awful lot of CDs of old music at all, it was all new stuff that was being put out on the spiffy new format. And there was certainly no Internet!
Every time I went to Glasgow I tried to find Brel albums or CDs but to no avail. Then one day, in the late Summer of 1990, in Tower Records Import section....there were THREE Jacques Brel 12" vinyl albums....a kind of 'hits' compilation, a Live In Paris 1961 album, and a double album set of songs he recorded in the mid-sixties. Needless to say I snaffled all three immediately. On the train back to Stirling I studied the sleeves longingly....I couldn't wait to hear them. This was SO exciting!!
Finally I was in my room, the Dansette fired up and I put the first album(the 'hits' one) on.....
The music was like a mix of music hall, cabaret and the soundtrack to Monsieur Hulot's Holiday, then came a big shock....he started singing...IN FRENCH!!!! Huh? Now, get the stupid looks off your faces!! I was genuinely surprised! Somehow I just imagined he'd be singing in English....I mean, how had all my idols understood his lyrics?
But as the album played on, one thing became obvious....it didn't matter that I couldn't understand the lyrics, it was the delivery, the emotion, the timbre....THE TIMBRE!!!! that kept me hooked. As an interpreter of song, Brel is almost without equal....
On 'Les Bourgeois', his attack on the lazy middle classes you can virtually hear him stamping up and down as he vents his spleen on the idle rich...
On the extraordinary 'La Valse à Mille Temps', he seems to fit more words into a song than is humanly possible....
The song 'Amsterdam' has been covered quite superbly by Bowie, Almond and Walker, but check out Brel's own interpretation below as proof that nobody delivers vocal drama like Brel. Look out especially for that moment right at the end where he vanishes from the spotlight....it takes the breath right out of your lungs....
On 'Quand On N'a Que L'Amour' he fills a gentle acoustic ballad with so much emotion, pathos and depth that wonder about all these flouncy singer/songwriter types that faff around these days and the pencil-kneck geekery of it all...
And then there's 'Ne Me Quitte Pas'...the original of 'If You Go Away'. I thought it would be difficult to better Scott's interpretation, but again it's all in the drama....the sobs in the vocal, the moments when the voice all but disappears or where it suddenly bursts into anguished longing. Painful....but, just like a broken heart, that 'good' pain.
Jacques Brel tought me that it doesn't matter if you can't understand the lyrics, a good interpretor of song should move you regardless, and had it not been for Jacques then I probably wouldn't have sought out the music of Juliette Greco, Sylvie Vartan, Meiko Kaji, Amalia Rodrigues, Reiko Ike or even Edith Piaf.
Discovering music when you are at your lowest ebb can often lead to a longtime love affair with certain songs or artists and 20 years on Jacques Brel can still move me to tears without me having a clue why.
And if you think that's delightful and unexpected, the final track; 'I Wanna Do Stuff' has mkf breaking cover and storming into full-on Shangri-Las or Ronettes mode. I promise you, it's exhilirating stuff. I leapt from my computer chair and jived uncontrollably around the stately Scottish mansion from which Streetlamp broadcasts to the world and, believe me, I rarely do that.
Given the above, I'm delighted to see that this week mkf has released yet another freely downloadable track 'swooky' on bandcamp. This is apparently the first track of an EP to be made fully public in October of this year and it continues wonderfully from where 'sunday morning phase' left off. How would I desribe it? Let's just say that if you've been longing for an outbreak of super-cute, lo-fi, doo-wop, electro-pop to shake up the world of indie then 'swooky' is the answer to your prayers. But don't take my word for it, have a listen:
When she's not shaking up the world of indie, Maria is a freelance graphic designer (available for creative freelance work in the Los Angeles area if you're interested). I mention this as I want to finish off with the brilliantly creative video for her song 'we belong in ____, baby' from 's'okee'.
Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Now visit bandcamp and support this artist.
Wednesday, 18 August 2010
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen I give you 'Nicely Dressed'; a trio of unseasoned young musicians from East Flanders in Belgium. The band comprises of; Laura Deschepper: Vocals, Piano, Guitar & Songwriting, Anton De Boes: Drum, Bass, Guitar, Piano & Songwriting and Tim Vanderbeke: Guitar. They have one song on their myspace page and one song on Bandcamp and in both cases it's the deliriously chipper little number 'If I Could Be the One'. Have a listen (below) and then take the opportunity to help yourself to the free download. I really don't know much about this lot but I firmly believe that if they can keep knocking out songs of this quality then we'll be hearing a lot more about them, not least here on the Streetlamp. Remember, you heard it here first!
Sunday, 15 August 2010
"Daddy, Daddy, I Have Found The Girl That I Want To Live With...."
1984 was a strange year....not in the way George Orwell allegorised, but in a personal way and, as such in a musical way. For me, 1984 was dominated by two albums, both debuts, both eponymous; 'The Smiths' and 'The Icicle Works'.
The beginning of 1984 had belonged pretty much to 'The Smiths', an album which we've dealt with pretty thoroughly in a previous Blog. The Winter and Festive period of late'84 was soundtracked almost solely by 'The Icicle Works'. So let's take a look at that much neglected gem of an album and put it into some kind of Streetlamp context....
If Morrissey would have us believe that sex was something purely natural, then Ian McNabb(The Icicle Works principle songwriter and vocalist) put forward the notion that love was something that evolved as a part of nature. That it was part of life's cycle, almost in a spiritual, even Buddhist sense. 'The Icicle Works' is draped in images of nature, from the trees on the sleeve to the song titles; 'As The Dragonfly Flies', 'Reaping The Richest Harvest', 'Chop The Tree', 'Birds Fly(Whisper To A Scream), 'Out Of Season', 'Love Is A Wonderful Colour'.
The lyrics too swell with images of love growing as a thing of natural beauty; in opening track 'Chop The Tree' we hear "When in the winter of our discontent// We found a way// To tie a bond between our hearts// In the open field should there we lay", and in 'Birds Fly(Whisper To a Scream) "Love come, down upon us 'till you flow like water// Burning, with the hope of insight// Feathered, look they're covered with a bright elation// Stolen, in the sight of love".
There are also many references to faith and a non-specific religious spirituality a la Joy Division but with the downbeat alienation replaced with upbeat positivism. Kind of like a non-Christian U2 and without the pious breast-beating.
The Icicle Works were a trio comprising Ian McNabb(vocals, guitars, keyboards), Chris Layhe(bass, backing vocals, percussion) and Chris Sharrock(drums). They emerged from Liverpool and were lumped in with other Big Pop/New Psychedelia bands from the same city of the time such as The Teardrop Explodes, Wah! and Echo & The Bunnymen. In Ian McNabb they had a vocalist who sounded like a re-vitalised Scott Walker, in fact I was often asked when playing Icicle Works records if it was a new release by Walker. The thing is, The Icicle Works made records that Scott Walker fans wish he would release in place of those 'difficult' industrial/art albums he releases now.
Throughout most of the 1980s I played drums in various bands and even today I am the percussionist in ~Sighrens~ but I have never had any kind of muso interest in drums or drummers. I wanted to become a drummer after hearing Adam & The Ants and their unusual Burundi style drumming. However I have to say that Chris Sharrock is easily the best drummer I have ever heard. His drumming on The Icicle Works songs add such a dynamism, as well as tone, texture and atmosphere. The drumming on my favourite Icicle works song 'A Factory In The Desert' in particular is miraculous, the drums practically SING and are the touchstone foundation of every track.
As I said in the opening paragraph, their debut album was vitally important to me in late 1984, and here's why. As I've already hinted at, the lyrics of 'The Icicle Works' play out as though life and love is a biological and spiritual symbiosis, a beauteous thing of nature if you will. In late 1984 it was clear to me and my friends that things were about to change....permanently. By the Winter of 1984 we had all left school, and therefore the group of friends we had known since we were about 5 years old were now scattered to the four winds. Many friends we would never see again, some we would see infrequently over the years, each time seeing them reminding us of our own defeat at the hands of time. Some we would cling to in perpetuity and still remain close friends to this day. It was also a time to put away childish things and start living in a more mature and adult fashion. For the first time, it really felt like we weren't kids anymore. For the previous three or four years my friends and I had pounded the cold streets of Bannockburn in ill attire searching for.....what? We didn't know. We still don't know. Often on those freezing cold November nights we'd walk around in tee-shirts and flimsy jackets looking longingly into the crowded bars and pubs, wishing we could join the throng.....and now we could. But it wasn't the great revelation we imagined. It became the beginning of our shacklement to alcohol. I don't mean that we all developed drink problems, just that the clarity of mind we had enjoyed as children would become muddied by the Mother's Ruin. That Christmas and New Year of 1984 was the first I would view without the eyes of a child, the blossoming of child into man you would think, yet somehow not as magical or special as I would like to remember. That Festive period I played 'The Icicle Works' to death. Just as with 'The Smiths' where I would use Morrissey's lyrics as a self-help manual, here I used Ian McNabb's lyrics like a safety blanket, like a guide constantly reminding me that if viewed through the correct eyes, then life and love could be spectacular and didn't have to be shrouded in the melancholic misery that alcohol brings with it. In Scotland people become slaves to alcohol, not necessarily becoming alcoholics, but finding it difficult to interface or communicate with each other unless it's via the glass.
In 1984 I, like many others, began that slow descent into a world where beauty becomes muddy through an altered state of mind. Yet by clinging to lines like "Yes our wisdom holds the secret// Our foolishness the key// We are architects of innocence// Delinquents of prestige// Don't hold us down, don't cramp our style", I was able to avoid slipping too far.
As the world opened up to us, the last line of the last song on the album('Nirvana') played like a mantra, "When will you let your feelings out of the cage?"
The Icicle Works followed their debut album with an album called 'The Small Price Of A Bicycle' which, brilliant lead single 'Hollow Horse' aside, suffered from that post-Live Aid Big Production that marred a lot of records in 1985. Third album 'If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song' was a return to form, and final album, 1988's 'Blind' was another small masterpiece(and the second CD I ever bought).
But their debut album will forever hold a large place in my heart and my history; a snapshot of my final moments before the long slide into adulthood.
"Don' t hold us down, don't cramp our style, This is Lover's Day!"
Thursday, 12 August 2010
Amen to that, it is indeed. When you visit the Daydream Generation website there's such an embarrasment of riches it's difficult to know where to start. Luckily for you, The Streetlamp is here to give you a little helping hand.
The Daydream Generation compilations are a regular feature from Quixodelic Records and give them a chance to showcase songs from both new and existing artists. This week sees the release of Daydream Generation No. 9, a huge undertaking which provides 45 songs over two discs.
I must admit at this point that I have a little inside interest in this compilation as it features a song by sighrens. However, leaving that aside I can genuinely say that the variety and quality of music across both discs is astonishing. Last week I asked Smally to send me his two favourite songs off the compilation so that we could feature them on the site. He responded with much uhmming and aaahing and a story of how he couldn't possibly pick just two. I suspected at the time that he was merely being diplomatic and so I downloaded the compilation and set to some serious listening myself. Almost immediately I saw that he was simply being truthful. Song after song on both discs jumped out at me as a possible candidate for the Streetlamp video treatment. Each time I picked out a favourite track another song would come along and supplant it.
In the end, thoroughly confused but mightily entertained, I picked one song from each disc virtually at random and I hope that they'll serve to give you a very slight taster of what's on offer on this compilation. After you've heard them go download the complete compilation 'here'. Enjoy!
Sunday, 8 August 2010
No, what we thought we'd look at is the myriad tracks that were obviously inspired by that song. A quick look at the the charts reveals that the number of songs that followed the 'AWSOP' blueprint that charted is....erm, none! Huh....how come? Surely in such a musically cannibalistic decade there must have been MANY pale imitators....literally! Given that every time The Beatles sneezed, the rest of the music industry caught the cold, you would assume they would be queueing up to offer their take on such a memorable piece of music....and yet the charts say NO! But that doesn't mean they don't exist. The truth is there were MANY copyists, it's just that none ever even tickled the underbelly of the charts.
So, we're going to take a look at a couple of the better ones; 'Reputation' by The Shy Limbs and 'Reflections Of Charles Brown' by Rupert's People, both from late 1967.
First off then, Rupert's People. Now Rupert's People weren't even a proper band as such, they were an alias used by a band call Les Fleur De Lys. The strange thing is that even under the name Les Fleur De Lys they never charted once....so why the alias? Les Fleur De Lys were actually very popular on the live circuit and did release a few records. My guess is that they knew 'Reflections....' was such a brazen imitation of 'AWSOP' that that's why they hid behind the false name.
'Reflections Of Charles Brown' even has the audacity to go one further than 'AWSOP' in that they actually use Bach's Air On A G String wholesale! No subtle tribute here. The track is beautifully produced with lots of space for the instruments to breathe; the drum sound is very clean and the guitar is very intricate and polished. And in Chris Andrews they have a very good vocalist indeed....his delivery on this track is quite exceptional. He adds a real ache and poignancy to a lyric that deals with a single(male) parent trying to scrape by to look after his kids who look upon him merely as the man who feeds them. Like most great 60s pop singles it is a beautiful snapshot of every day life, shot through with a little acid sparkle.
A fantastic single that deserved to be a massive hit, but like so many of the tracks we'll cover in Nippy Sweeties, it did absolutely nothing!
Warning: the next article contains traces of Greg Lake. A major rock star once remarked that there are three things you should always avoid on tour; toothache, headache and Greg Lake. In truth, we should actually be thankful to Greg Lake for if it hadn't been for Emerson Lake & Palmer then a bunch of teenagers wouldn't have been driven to pick up guitars and write 'White Riot', 'Anarchy In The UK' and 'New Rose' and Griff, Ray and I wouldn't be creating these Blogs....Hey, Thanks Greg!The Shy Limbs was one of Greg Lake's first bands and this truly amazing song was one of their only releases. Again benefiting greatly from an over dominant organ refrain, this song actually sounds completely deranged and constantly on the verge of collapsing in on itself. Before I started getting all properly enthusiastic about Psychedelic music, this is actually what I imagined all Psychedelic music sounded like....all phased whooshing noises, Blackpool Tower Ballroom keyboards and impassioned Steve Marriott-alike vocals.
We'll excuse the suspect slightly sexist lyrics about how he is going to be too much of a man for her to carry on with her 'Reputation' as a product of the times....'Blow Up' had only been in the cinemas the year before after all. It has always been believed that Greg Lake sang and played guitar on 'Reputation' but it is clearly not him singing. It IS his guitar though and he did provide the vocals for the flipside 'Love'. The vocalist on this track appears to be John Dickenson....and a fine vocal it is too. Sadly....once again the general public simply didn't feel inclined to take such a fine piece of music to their bosom. Too many James Last and Oinklebert Humperpig records out there to buy, eh? Nevermind.....
So, there we are....two fine slabs of Psychedelic Pop born from one of the most instantly recognisable tracks of all time. There were many more but I think we'll leave it here with these two....Hell, you wouldn't want us to get all populist and obvious on you now, would you?
~Keep Your Mind Open~
Friday, 6 August 2010
The idea for Sea Indie came to Isarapan Boonyaso in December of 2008 after he realised that the Southeast Asian region was becoming a hotbed of indiepop talent. Isarapan's first compilation was made for fun just to share with his friends but he subsequently realised that there was a much wider, indeed world-wide interest, in the music and the Sea Indie label was officially formed in 2009. Sea Indie uses compilations as its main device in raising awareness of the growing indie scenes in Southeast Asian countries and has released two previous free compilations: 'Day To Embrace (Indonesia Indiepop Scene)' released on October 01, 2009 and 'Summers Daydream' released on January 08, 2010. Isarapan is keen to stress the supportive and friendly community nature of the Sea Indie set-up and the label has a simple mission statement;
"To unite and promote the great indie scenes in the Southeast Asian Region; Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. We release only digital and free mp3 compilations that include indie tracks from these regions."
This latest free compilation features a charming array of pop talent and features guitar-based indiepop, indie-rock, and acoustic sounds. All in all, there should be something here to please most palates. Personally, I enjoyed the beatiful, chiming, guitar work of Serenaide on 'The Girl From Katong', the clever shifting time-signatures employed by The Groovys on 'Whisper me Love', the sweet and winning vocal harmonies of Bobsy on 'The End of April', the laid-back and jazzy 'Midnight Sky and Glue' by My Writes and the ever-so-slightly ramshackle, pure, mid-80's style twee-pop of paddlePOP with their contribution; "Phil" in the blanks.
Here's the complete track listing:
To get your hands on this compilation for free visit the Sea Indie blog or download it directly from here or here. Remember, if you do enjoy this then please continue to support Sea Indie and all of the bands who have made the music available.
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Okay so it's not one of his most memorable quotes but it is one of his most accurate.
Flipper's Guitar were a Pop duo comprising Keigo Oyamada and Kenji Ozawa who hailed from Tokyo and were inspired mostly by British, and even more, Scottish Pop music. Their main love appeared to be the whole Postcard scene as well as Aztec Camera, Teenage Fanclub and The Pastels. What I like about the duo is their lack of snobbery, for they also openly admit a love for and cite as an influence bands like Haircut 100, The Style Council and The Colourfield. In Britain we'd all be too snobby to admit EVER liking those bands.
Our reason for choosing to feature Flipper's Guitar is their wonderful single 'Goodbye Our Pastels Badges'(from 1989 no less, Hooray!!). This is a wonderful, vibrant, energetic piece of sparkling Pure Pop which is as infectious as hell and features a litany of Scottish Indie Pop references in the lyrics....have a read and see:
" Bye! Goodbye our Pastels badges
But it means some kind of happy birthday
Hey, beatnik boys! all you Blue Boys!
Teenage kicks can't die
A Postcard from Scotland says it's still raining hard in the highlands
Though there's nothing going on
I hear the truck and train now
Let's have our fringes cut just like James Kirk did long ago
But our hairdresser should be a boy
And he should have three wishes in his heart
Take, take off the badges from our anoraks
Put, put them into the drawers
And we swear we'll never forget that feeling
So goodbye, goodbye
On the subway sometimes so sad
But a razor appears and cuts
Yes, our lollipops were something pure
So let's take off our favorite shirts"
(You'll have to take my word for it, the track below DOES feature music, it just doesn't start till about 20 seconds in)
If you're trying to figure out the references, here they are in order; The Pastels, Altered Images(Happy Birthday), Orange Juice(Blue Boy), The Undertones(Teenage Kicks[yes, I know they're not Scottish]), Postcard Records, Aztec Camera(High Land Hard Rain), The Pastels again(Truck Train Tractor), Orange Juice again(a reference to guitarist James Kirk's fringe), Teenage Fanclub(The Fannies were originally called The Boy Hairdressers), Subway Records, Razorcuts(again not Scottish), and finally the not-Scottish Haircut 100(Favourite Shirts).
Flipper's Guitar released three albums from 1989 to 1993 when they split up. They are 'Three Cheers for Our Side!'(from which this track was taken), 'Camera Talk' and 'Doctor Head's World Tower', plus a live album 'On Pleasure Bent'. All albums are pretty tricky to track down now should you be interested in pursuing them.
Here is the live version of the song:
A fine tribute to Scottish Pop Music by two guys who really worshipped at it's altar.
Put simply, if you don't like this track then you really don't like music!
Ye Gods, we're simply thrilled!!